Motor Sports

Do You Lose Before You Even Start?

You have to be able to give ten tenths every time out.

So what kind of a head do you have on your shoulders? Are you competing at the level that you’re capable of? Or do you regularly perform better in practice than when it counts the most in races? Are there particular opponents who you consistently lose to who you always out-train and who have no business beating you? Do fears and self-doubts paralyze you and prevent you from reacting fast and doing the things that will help get you a better finish? Are you the kind of racer who regularly steals defeat from the jaws of victory? Have you been labeled a good racer who has “permanent potential?”

If some of these questions bother you, then you probably already know how critically important the mental part of your sport is. If you want to take your performance to the next level, if you want to overcome those fears and perform with more confidence, then you have to be willing to take your training far beyond where most drivers and riders stop. Most serious motor sports athletes work religiously on the physical part of their training. They’ll work on their strength, fitness, and, of course, their technique.You can’t become successful without “paying your physical dues” in this way. Hard work is definitely one of the main keys to your success. Without it, you’ll quickly fall behind the competition.

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Unfortunately, this is where too many drivers and racers stop! When they go into their races, they hope they’ll perform well, they hope that they’ll have their “A” game with them today, they hope that they’ll win. You’d never leave your conditioning or technique to chance. So why would you leave the most important part of your racing – the mental side – to chance?

Being successful at race time is 95% mental and 5% physical. You have the conditioning, technique, and proper strategy. To get that great performance to come out when it counts the most, you have to be able to stay calm under pressure, keep yourself focused on the right things, believe in yourself, and rebound quickly from mistakes. And you have to handle last-minute negativity, fears, or doubts.

Without these mental skills you will consistently sabotage yourself and underachieve.

A number of drivers and riders struggle with incapacitating fears. Their fears may prevent them from being aggressive on the race course or track when they need to be. Fears within your sport are exceptionally common and are integrally related to the very nature of the sport. Both drivers and riders crash as a normal part of the sport. Sometimes these crashes are exceptionally scary and can result in injuries.

Every time that you have a scary crash, close call, or injury, your brain/body memorizes the entire experience in exquisite detail. You unconsciously remember all the sights, sounds, smells, movements, emotions, and thoughts from the experience. In fact, long after you crashed and this experience may have been consciously forgotten, it still remains frozen in its entirety in your brain and body. The problem with this is that the next time you are under pressure or are in any way reminded of that original scary experience, (i.e. trying for the hole shot or being bumped in a race), components from this original upsetting event (images, sounds, emotions, anxiety, physical tension, and/or negative thinking) get activated and bubble up, interfering with the present performance. Oftentimes when this happens, your body automatically goes into a self-protective FREEZE mode in an attempt to keep you safe from a perceived danger. When this happens, no matter what you consciously try to do to go faster, your body instinctively stops you.

This is the kind of work that we focus on with drivers and riders. In addition to teaching them specific mental toughness training techniques to help them stay calm under pressure, focus on what’s important and block out everything else, rebound quickly from mistakes and failures, develop self-confidence, and manage last minute negative thinking and self-doubts, we help these athletes get over their incapacitating fears, using mind-body techniques to help them calm their nervous system down!

With a little work, these mental skills – as well as a few important others – can be systematically trained to the point where you develop the reputation as a mentally tough competitor.

Dr. Alan Goldberg is an internationally-recognized Sports Performance Consultant who works with race drivers and BMX riders, helping them develop mental toughness and perform at a high level. Dr. G specializes in helping athletes who struggle with repetitive performance problems overcome fear and blocks. He is the author of This Is Your Brain On Sports: Beating Blocks, Slumps and Performance Anxiety for Good. Check out his popular Mental Toughness Training Package

  • I used to always worry about the other drivers, how good they were and then get psyched out. Your program really taught me how to concentrate and keep my focus on my racing! What a BIG difference!

    Matt Nevada
  • I've had some really scary crashes over the years and they've left me racing scared! Your Brain On Sports book has helped me understand why this has happened and has helped me put these events behind me! Now I'm able to drive the way that I'm capable of!

    John Georgia
  • I’ve raced BMX for years and have always struggled with strong pre-race nerves. Your training material has helped me finally get back in control! I’m riding better than I ever have!

    JT Texas
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Resources

OVERCOMING PERFORMANCE FEARS AND BLOCKS Are you struggling with a seemingly mysterious performance problem? Have you or your athlete suddenly lost BASIC abilities? FINALLY understand where this FRUSTRATING problem comes from and what you can do about it!

THE MENTAL SIDE OF ATHLETIC INJURIES The mental pain caused by your injury and the temporary or permanent loss of your sport can be far more devastating than the strained or torn ligaments, pulled muscles, ripped cartilage or broken bones. Unless this type of pain is directly addressed and “treated”, your overall recovery will be slow and incomplete.

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